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Novak, Paolo (2008) (The production of) Who is a Refugee? PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The question "who is a refugee?"---the key research question of this thesis---is ambiguous since it conflates distinct analytical perspectives. It may be answered in reference to subjective beliefs or claims (he is/I am a refugee), prescriptively (who should be considered a refugee, universally or in specific contexts), on the basis of existing legal apparatuses (who has been recognised as a refugee according to international, regional or domestic law) or of alternative conceptualisations of world order, migration and solidarity (e.g. according to religious beliefs, vis-a-vis tribal solidarity, as defined in the mission and discourse of non-state-based humanitarian organisations), etc. Each of these perspectives is premised on different ontological orders, and conceptualises the migrant as a member of different types of social formation. The thesis attempts to answer the question "who is a refugee?" in the context of Afghan migration to Pakistan. First, it postulates the research question in methodological terms, setting in conversation key bibliographic references and a series of context-based issues and perspectives. Second, it develops a framework for the study of refugee protection and assistance that draws upon and expands governmentality approaches for the study of regimes. The framework highlights, and is concerned with, the overlap of a variety of such regimes simultaneously exercising claims over the same group of people. Third, its core chapters put to the test such framework, by studying three constitutive elements of the modem refugee regime: borders, defining its territoriality; legal status, defining the object of protection and assistance interventions; Afghan NGOs, as an example of the intergovernmental regimentation of such activities. As a central contribution, the thesis offers a coeval understanding of the term "refugee". It is argued that, in order to define who is a refugee, it is necessary to unpack: a) the simultaneity of processes co-determining who is a refugee, in a particular time and place; b) the meaningful simultaneity of spatially separated events, which have repercussions on such processes; c) their contemporaneity with other processes taking place in the historical moment under study. A coeval methodology for the study of refugee migration, protection and assistance suggests a radically expanded context of analysis, one that collapses distinctions between scales (e.g. the "global" and the "local"), societies and systems of authority (e.g. "modern" and "traditional"), or between structural and subjective dimensions of power. Such methodology conceptualises "the refugee" as a dynamic and undetermined process of social production, performed by a variety of heterogeneous agents: the production of objects to be governed following exclusionary logics, and their social re-production, which is necessarily mediated, in a contingent and dynamic fashion.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

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